“…Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him…and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.”Matthew 4:18 – 20 (ESV)
In recent times, the word “follow” has been redefined by social media as we follow certain accounts to keep up with what they are up to.
A ‘follower’ can also be a stalker or a gossip.
But what does it mean when Jesus tells Simon Peter and Andrew to follow Him?
This passage is the first reference to discipleship in the book of Matthew in the form of the word ‘follow’.
The word ‘disciple’ is translated from the Greek ‘mathetes’, meaning a student or learner, and derived from the Latin root ‘discipulus’, meaning a pupil and follower.
Therefore, a disciple is one who follows another with the purpose of learning as his pupil.
Many of us agree that being a believer makes us a follower of Jesus, but when asked if a believer is a disciple of Jesus, we are not quite as clear.
When Jesus ask Andrew and Simon Peter to follow Him, Jesus is inviting them to a deeper level of commitment that calls them to put aside their fishing, and partner with Him full time as He moves at a faster pace to preach the kingdom.
Jesus continues to invite people to go to the next level with Him today; and yet one does not need to be called in order to become a disciple.
Although Jesus calls some, others volunteered themselves as followers because they believed who He was and desired to follow Him.
When we believe in Someone, we will naturally want to follow Him to the next level without waiting for the call.
What then qualifies someone to be a disciple of Christ?
The truth is this:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”Ephesians 2:8
Just as nothing qualifies us for salvation, it is by grace and faith that when we believe, Jesus receives us and qualifies us as His disciples.
Let us stop disqualifying ourselves from discipleship by thinking we are not good enough.
Instead, we should respond to Jesus’s invitation to follow Him just like how the disciples did.
If we have truly and personally experienced Jesus and tasted and seen that the Lord is good, we will respond immediately too to that invitation.
Even if we have yet to have that personal experience, there is no need to feel condemned or pressured because, at the right time, Jesus will give us that experience, build upon it and when he invites us into a deeper walk, we know how we will answer.
Just like the disciples, following Jesus needs us to leave behind our “nets”, our “boats”, and our “fathers”.
Nets represent the entanglements that ensnare and entrap us, which are the cares of this world, but we are called to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” Hebrews 12:1.
Boats represent our assets and securities which we tend to find our safety, but God calls us to step out of the boat and trust Him.
Fathers represent the comfort zones of our families and friends, which we sometimes remain in even though we are not growing.
Jesus is not calling us to neglect our families but to put our relationship with Him above all else.
In fact, He gives this promise:
“Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.”Mark 10:29 – 30
In Greek, there are two words translated as “follow”.
“Then He said to them, “Follow [deute opiso] Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
They immediately left their nets and followed [akoloutheo] Him.
‘Deute opiso’ means to follow after, coming behind and going where Jesus goes and doing what He does.
Jesus is the forerunner who we follow into the presence of God; He is the firstfruits of the resurrection who we follow into resurrected life.
The second word ‘akoloutheo’ has an understanding of coming alongside Jesus in the privilege of being called into koinonia, a fellowship with Him.
We have the privilege of being friends with our Master and King, enjoying our relationship but also knowing our position of trust and obedience.
It is a fellowship where we partake together in abundant life, but as we are glorified with Him we also suffer with Him.
It is a fellowship of mission and purpose where we receive our assignments and come together to learn as students of Christ, coming after Him, coming beside Him, coming together
According to Bill Hull, we seem to have fallen into the danger of encouraging a two-level mode of believing, where only serious Christians pursue discipleship and others just receive grace and forgiveness.
“we can’t truly follow Christ without desiring to become like Him… If we’re reborn, we’ll follow Him – unless we are taught we do not need to.”Bill Hull, The Complete Book of Discipleship)
A new Christian does not need to take a second step to become a disciple but should experience a seamless growth that goes from spiritual childhood, adolescence, adulthood and finally maturity.
When the distinction between a disciple and a Christian is gone, this damaging belief of a two-tiered church will disappear as well.
Christianity without discipleship is Christianity without Christ.
To be a believer is to be a disciple, and to be a disciple is to follow Jesus.
Prayer & Reflection:
- Will you respond to God’s invitation to a deeper walk? What are some of the things that you need to ‘leave behind’ that is holding you back?
- From the above, how can you better ‘follow’ Jesus?
- “Christianity without discipleship is Christianity without Christ”
What do you understand about this and what is the Lord revealing to you today?